Skip to content

Cecil Facer closure: ‘Where are these youth going to go?’

Head of Sudbury John Howard Society says many youth have been diverted from incarceration in recent years, but she’s still concerned by facility’s impending closure

The head of the John Howard Society of Sudbury says there are pros and cons to the impending closure of the Cecil Facer Youth Centre, a 16-bed Sudbury facility for northern young offenders.

Last week, it was announced that Cecil Facer will be closed within two years, and the property repurposed to house a 50-bed detention centre for adult women to be built on the same property.

Cecil Facer is located on South Lane Road off of Highway 69, in the city’s South End. The ministry says it opened in 1971 as a training school for boys and became a youth-only secure custody facility in 1985.

“Some of these cons certainly are, where are these youth going to go?” said Sara Berghammer, who’s the CEO of the John Howard Society of Sudbury.

The John Howard Society is a Canadian non-profit organization that seeks to develop understanding and effective responses to the problem of crime and prison reform.

“We know that there has been a steady decline of youth being held in custody, which is why a number of years ago, Cecil Facer was closing wings of this jail, because there weren't enough youth, which is a very good thing, because we know the harm of incarceration,” Berghammer said. 

“But, where are these youth going to go? If the youth that are currently being held there are from our community, I would imagine they would be shipped out to other facilities. 

“There are concerns in that too, in that they are not connected to the community in which they will eventually be released to. And they really should be in the communities where they live, and gaining rapport and developing connections with people that can help them when they're out.”

While not much is known at the moment about this proposed new women’s detention centre on the current Cecil Facer site, Berghammer said it would likely be an improvement on the Sudbury Jail, where women are currently held for pre-trial custody.

“Hopefully, it being a newer facility, it would be better designed for treatment of these folks,” she said. 

Berghammer wonders, however, where the inmates for the women’s facility will be coming from. “We don't typically have anywhere near 50 women in the Sudbury Jail at one time,” she said.

“Historically, we don't build facilities, whether that's hospitals, or jails, without the intention of filling the spaces, which goes against our philosophy, in that incarceration should be the very last resort. We should be looking at alternatives to custody before we remove someone's freedom.”

The impending closure of Cecil Facer and the proposed construction of a new 50-bed women’s facility on the same site was brought to the media’s attention last week by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

"This is yet another short-sighted closure of a facility for youth who need specialized help in their own communities," said Peter Harding, OPSEU co-chair of the Youth Justice Ministry Employee Relations Committee and a Youth Services Officer, in a press release.

"It's not too late to reverse this bad decision." reached out to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services for more information on the matter.

The ministry confirmed the government is repurposing Cecil Facer Youth Centre (CFYC) in Sudbury to an adult women’s institution “to provide additional capacity and mental health supports to adult women in the north.”

This is not an immediate closure of the youth facility, but a transfer of CFYC property and operations over roughly two years, said the written statement from the ministry. 

During this time, CFYC will continue to operate as a youth justice facility and admit youth from the surrounding areas.

“This time for transition will allow the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS) to plan for transitioning youth when required, with the best interest, well-being and safety of the youth at the centre of all considerations,” said the statement.

“It also allows MCCSS to meaningfully engage Indigenous, justice and community partners for advice on how we can support the transition of youth to other facilities when required.”

Across Northern Ontario, MCCSS is also working to support continued connections to the community and family through the Connected to Communities program which helps mitigate financial barriers to visitation, along with investments in video calling capabilities to allow youth to connect with family, guardians, elders and positive mentors, said the statement.

All staff at the facility will have the option to either transition to the Ministry of the Solicitor General or transfer to another youth justice facility.

School programming for the youth in custody at Cecil Facer is operated by the Rainbow District School Board.

When reached out to the Rainbow board for an interview on the matter last week, we received only the following brief emailed statement: 

“Rainbow District School Board was advised this week of the impending changes at Cecil Facer,” said the Rainbow board. “The Board provides the educational program at the facility and will continue to do so for the 2023-2024 school year.”

The Rainbow board also said the Cecil Facer school serves up to 12 youth.

We received more information on Cecil Facer’s educational programming from Eric Laberge, District 3 president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation.

He said eight of his members work out of Cecil Facer, and there are a few other education workers from other bargaining units who also work from the facility. Marty Punkari is listed as the principal of Cecil Facer on the Rainbow board’s website.

Laberge said in an email that a variety of in-person classes are provided to Cecil Facer residents, based on their needs. 

Teachers working from Cecil Facer also provide e-learning courses for students who aren’t residents of the facility, specifically those “who are unable to attend a local school.”

Laberge said it is “disappointing to see the closure of a work location and a reduction in the number of positions for our members.

“For the youth that our members serve, they have developed a rapport with the academic staff and now must establish new relationships at the facility they are transferred to.”

Heidi Ulrichsen is’s associate content editor. She also covers education and the arts scene.


Verified reader

If you would like to apply to become a verified commenter, please fill out this form.

Heidi Ulrichsen

About the Author: Heidi Ulrichsen

Read more